Top 10 foods to avoid during pregnancy

It’s a really good idea to eat lots of healthy, nutritious foods while you are pregnant.

But did you know that there are some foods and drinks you should avoid at this time? Even though many of them are good for us, they have the potential to cause problems for your baby in the womb so for that reason are best avoided.


It’s a good idea to be familiar with the ‘foods to avoid’ list and steer clear of these foods and drinks for the remainder of your pregnancy – you can look forward to enjoying them again once your new baby has arrived. There are also a few foods which you don’t need to completely avoid but you do need to limit so just be mindful of these.

  1. Unpasteurised Milk and Cheeses made from Unpasteurised Milk
  2. Rare or raw meat, chicken or fish
  3. Pate
  4. Swordfish, Shark and Marlin
  5. Liver and liver products
  6. Deli meats, luncheon meats and pre-prepared salads e.g coleslaw
  7. Smoked salmon and gravadlax fish
  8. Alcohol
  9. Raw eggs or products made with raw eggs
  10. Caffeine (limit)

1. Unpasteurised Milk and soft Cheeses

Unless you live on a farm, it is unlikely that you will be offered unpasteurised (or raw) milk on a day-to-day basis.  All of the milk we buy in shops and supermarkets is pasteurised to kill off any possible problem causing bacteria. However, because of the desirable strong , pungent flavour it adds to cheese, there are many raw milk cheeses available – particularly in delicatessens or at your supermarket cheese counter. Avoid all soft cheeses, whether they are  pasteurised or not as they MAY contain a food poisoning bug that could not only make you ill but could harm your baby too. Also avoid blue cheeses because of the moulds they contain.

So steer clear of Brie, Camembert and Blue Cheese for the next few months. Instead, enjoy Cheddar, Edam, Gouda, Cottage Cheese and branded Cream Cheese – these are all safe to eat.

2. Rare or raw meat, chicken or fish

It is important to make sure that everything you eat is well cooked through, to ensure that any harmful bugs can be killed off before you eat the food. So no rare steak or lightly cooked fish – check to make sure the food is cooked right through to the centre. This is also very important with minced meat, so make sure there is no pink meat visible inside your burger.

3. Pate

Whether made from meat, fish or vegetables pate should be avoided during pregnancy. It may contain higher levels of bacteria listeria than other foods. Another reason to avoid eating pate is that it often contains liver which should be avoided during pregnancy. Why not go for hummus or cream cheese instead?

4. Swordfish, Shark and Marlin

Limit your tuna intake – do not eat more than 2 medium tins of tuna or more than 1 fresh tuna steak per week

Probably not something you would have for dinner every Tuesday night but swordfish, in particular, is becoming more popular. These fish may contain high mercury levels so it is best to choose other fish instead. Excessive mercury intake may harm an unborn baby or young child’s developing nervous system. Tuna, which is much more popular in Ireland, may also contain mercury, so it is advisable to limit your tuna intake – do not eat more than 2 medium tins of tuna or more than 1 fresh tuna steak per week while pregnant.

5. Liver and liver products

Fried or grilled liver may not be the regular staple it was when your parents were young, but it is still on sale in all butchers today and is a very nutritious offal meat, packed full of iron. However, it is also very high in Vitamin A – a good thing if you were not pregnant but high intakes of Vitamin A are not recommended in pregnancy. Larger doses of Vitamin A can cause developmental problems in unborn babies. So avoid liver, liver sausage, pate and any fish liver oils or multivitamins containing Vitamin A. In fact, always check with your doctor or pharmacist before you take any supplements or medications while pregnant.

6. Deli meats, luncheon meats and pre-prepared salads eg coleslaw

Certain chilled foods such as these which are consumed without further cooking before eating can contain a higher risk of a bacteria called listeria as this bacteria can survive at fridge temperatures. Although they may be perfectly safe it is just that you have a higher risk of this bacteria affecting you when you are pregnant so it is best to err on the side of caution.

7. Smoked salmon and gravid lax fish

Again, smoked salmon contains a higher risk of bacteria so it is best avoided. Opt for well cooked salmon fillets or salmon and haddock pie instead.

8. Alcohol

There is no safe limit of alcohol recommended so it is best to completely avoid it to remove any risk to your baby.

9. Raw eggs or products made with raw eggs

While you are probably not drinking raw-eggs for breakfast like some body-builders, now is certainly not the time to start and in fact you need to do some detective work and avoid any foods in which raw eggs are hidden. Raw eggs can contain salmonella which may cause harm to you and your baby.

Home made cheesecake or mousse? Many of them are made with raw eggs so avoid them if you are unsure. Homemade mayonnaise? Again, raw egg is a main ingredient here so stick to the shop bought varieties which will be pasteurised. And if you fancy a boiled egg or poached egg for breakfast, just cook them until the yolk is hard.

10. Caffeine

Caffeine can act as a stimulant so it is best to limit your coffee intake while you are pregnant. Try to keep your intake to less than 200mg / day – check out the section on Caffeine here to see how you are doing.

If you need some more information on foods to avoid, contact our Careline.

Your baby's future health begins here

At Aptaclub, we believe that experience helps to build resilience; and that each new encounter, whether in pregnancy or after birth, can shape your baby’s future development. With our scientific expertise and one-to-one round the clock support, we can help you and your baby embrace tomorrow.

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